Every spring, when the NFL unveils its 32 schedules for the upcoming regular season, potential feel-good storylines are everywhere.
Second-year Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Cole Toner didn’t wait long for his.
Toner, a 2012 graduate of Roncalli High School who played collegiately at Harvard University, immediately noticed Arizona’s Week 2 game on Sept. 17. At Indianapolis. One o’clock kickoff.
A lifelong fan of the Indianapolis Colts who was able to experience two games at Lucas Oil Stadium as a Rebels player, Toner returns home when his team plays at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 17.
Running onto the field and standing on the opposing sideline in front of friends and family will be an experience Toner will always treasure.
“Seeing that on our schedule was really cool,” Toner said. “Having visited some other NFL stadiums, Lucas Oil Stadium is just an awesome place.
“For a long time we knew we were going to be playing the Colts on the road, but didn’t know when. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Toner became the first Crimson offensive lineman to be taken since former Minnesota Vikings/Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk (sixth round in 1998).
Birk played 15 seasons, made six Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Ravens before retiring in early 2013.
As a rookie in 2016, Toner played in all four of Arizona’s exhibition games and its final two regular-season contests — a 34-31 victory at Seattle and the 44-6 triumph against the Los Angeles Rams.
Capable of playing anywhere along the offensive line, Toner is listed as a backup for both of the Cardinals’ starting guards, Mike Iupati and Evan Boehm.
Boehm also was selected by Arizona in the 2016 draft. A fourth-rounder, the former University of Missouri lineman went 22 picks ahead of Toner.
Since the Cardinals didn’t make the NFC playoffs last season, Arizona’s players began scattering after the Jan. 1 win in Los Angeles. Toner gave himself a month to relax and do some traveling before returning to the Cardinals’ complex in February for offseason workouts.
At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Toner’s body fat has been reduced to 23 percent. He can bench press as much as 410 pounds and squat a maximum of 600.
Arizona opens its exhibition schedule Aug. 3 against Dallas in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. That, along with the regular-season opener at Detroit and the game in Indy, are ones family members and friends should be able to attend.
As much as he loves the Colts, Toner hopes to improve upon his 1-1 record as a player at Lucas Oil Stadium.
As a junior at Roncalli, Toner played there in a 41-10 loss to bitter rival Cathedral; the following season, Roncalli scored a 33-21 win against Decatur Central in a Week 8 matchup.
The NFL life might not be for everyone; it’s a lot of sweat, pain, airports and motel rooms. But Toner isn’t complaining.
He’s 23 years old and drawing an NFL paycheck.
“It’s fantastic to be able to be paid to play a game you love,” he said. “A game that you’ve always played for free.”
THE TONER FILE
Name: Cole Toner
Family: Parents Dave and Angie
High school: Roncalli (2012)
College: Harvard University (2016)